As organizations count on the supply chain for strategic differentiation, the enterprise software used in the suppoy chain becomes critically important. So do the use interfaces offered by these solutions. Choosing the right one can make all the difference to supply chain and to the OEM.
User interfaces (UX) have often been treated as a second thought when it comes to enterprise software implementation, but the proliferation of easy-to-use consumer technology has brought new demands from employees. Imposing difficult to use software down onto employees can lead to a disengaged workforce, lost time, and falling revenue. But it doesn’t stop there – this can have a knock-on effect on how companies move forward a well.
An IFS usability study of over 200 enterprise software users also found a strong correlation between successful digital transformation and software usability. Respondents who said their enterprise software prepared them for digital transformation, for instance, were 400% more likely to say their enterprise software was very easy to use. However, 88% of respondents said, when they were faced with poor software usability, they would abandon enterprise software in place of Excel spreadsheets.
Here are six trends enterprise software must tap into if organizations want to drive revenue and keep employees engaged.
The consumerization of instant-messaging: As more and more people get used to swiping on their smartphones and using chat apps such as WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger, they begin to expect this same quick interaction from enterprise software. Delivering an intuitive, clean, and visually appealing UX that allows quick actions without going through too many steps before performing a task is a must. This has been the motivator behind a lot of companies enabling enterprise systems to be accessed through these kind of services, such as the popular WeChat social networking service in China.
Deliver the right information at the right time: Rapidly increasing data volumes within organizations have made it even more urgent to personalizeinformation and make it available at a moment’s notice. The CEO needs top-level financial data, whereas supply chain professional may be looking for inventory or shipment data and the service engineer may need the latest asset status from a power generation turbine or manufacturing line. Role-based user interfaces have been developed to meet these individual needs. When paired with new technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML), the role-based interface can also become intelligent, predicting how you want your personalized interface displayed and automatically adapting what information is shown – for example, depending on the device you use and how much is practical to display. The future user interfaces will be smart and evolve to learn from your past actions and preferences.
Mobile drives engagement and digital transformation: The use of mobile devices in our personal lives has raised the bar for how we expect to use enterprise software on these devices. Research into enterprise mobility shows that executives at enterprises who say their software prepares them well for digital transformation are more than twice as likely to access software from a mobile device. A growing number of organizations are also implementing responsive designs that adapt across platforms and screen sizes to allow various mobile devices to interact with business software. “Mobile first” has become a common UX strategy for consumer software. Although the majority of work in enterprises is still done on laptops and desktops, touch screen devices like tablets are becoming a choice for everyone from executives to industrial maintenance staff. So, where mobile first might apply for a number of specific business processes within enterprise software, mobile as a choice applies to all processes.
Voice functionality at your service: UX does not just have to be visual, forms and lists. Consumer-focused interfaces, such as Siri, Cortana and Alexa, have accelerated the adoption of voice and chat as an interface in the enterprise arena. The benefits are clear – you can search for data and perform tasks within your system using voice or chat through Skype, Messenger, or any other channel instead of having to use a dedicated enterprise application and click through endless menus and structures. This provides vital benefits for professionals such as service engineers, who can use their hands when repairing an asset while searching for instructions using their voice.
Entering a new reality with UX: Moving us even further beyond screen display or voice notions of UX is the movement towards AR and VR. Since its start ten years ago, augmented reality has matured fast. Companies such as XMReality offer AR remote guidance, so remote subject matter experts can support engineers in the field in solving complex problems as if they were physically present. Such technologies have gone from being exploratory R&D projects to mature solutions extraordinarily quickly, and it will not take long before we see broader adoption.
Combining real-life and virtual reality: Another opportunity to leverage these technologies is through mixed reality, which combines augmented reality and virtual reality using devices such as the Microsoft HoloLens. Imagine service engineers who can visualize data from the business software directly on an asset that is to be serviced via their safety glasses. This will make it possible to work on repairing the asset with both hands, while having the service instructions superimposed on the field of vision. The intuitive, easy-to-use UX of mixed reality, combined with enterprise software data, could reshape how we think about enterprise UX in the future.
If you haven’t already, now is the time to start evaluating your software UX. It starts with your employees, so asking users to rank functionality and provide feedback on how they interact with enterprise software. The effects can be immediate and have a direct effect on staff retention – IFS research shows almost 46% of the middle-age demographic said they would consider changing jobs due to poor enterprise software usability.
Consumer technology continues to advance at a rapid pace and so will employee expectations. This is why UX should be constantly reviewed, especially as new technology makes its way into the enterprise. One thing does remain certain, user engagement is a key performance indicator (KPI) which is here to stay.